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Islamic law - whether it is about a choice

Before you continues to read this post, please read the brief history of Aceh, until Tsunami disaster happened and finally get a special autonomy right from Indonesian central government.

For years the Indonesian military has struggle to fight against what we call Gerakan Aceh Merdeka / GAM (English: Free Aceh Movement) who want to establish an Islamic state and impose Sharia law in Aceh province. This proves that Indonesia do not wanting Islamic state system because Indonesia is a country based on the laws (national law), democratic, consist of various ethnic groups, has 6 official religion, with national motto: Unity in diversity, not an Islamic state that implement Sharia law.

However, this war has caused many casualties and was not offering the civil order, harmony, and security for millions of civilians in Aceh. I say thousands of victims as a side effect of war, not just a matter of the position of a woman as reported by Jakarta Globe with the title "Women Unfit to Lead, says Acehnese District Council Chairman". And I quoted a paragraph below:
"According to Shariah, a woman is prohibited from becoming a leader. Ridwan said Anisah’s appointment as subdistrict chief in April had caused a rift in the community, with one side supporting her and the other against her".

Seemingly what was reported by the Jakarta Globe is to remind us (especially to Indonesian people outside Aceh) that if Islamic law applies, then this is the consequences that must be accepted.

A case will get different treatment depending on the context, degree, and its level. If we speak in a personal level, then the caning and the prohibition for women to be an official in Aceh province is pathetic. If we are talking in the context of state administration and law, then what happened in Aceh is a matter of choice. They have chosen Sharia law in Aceh province, not because of the Indonesian government. They have the right to choose Sharia law but those outside Aceh also have the right to reject the implementation of Sharia law. Actually that woman was hindered by the rules applicable there but she also have the option to live outside Aceh. I think this is a better solution to avoid more conflicts instead of continuing to impose our own principles or belief.

The puzzle is: while they have the right to choose the Sharia law, then should the Indonesian military must continue to eradicate their rights? If yes, then I am sure America will be screaming about human rights, while on the one side are also allergic to Islamic law.

Like China and Hong Kong - one country two systems, which it showing the eastern wisdom.


  1. Apparently it isn't just Americans who care about civil rights. According to the history link 11 Acehen villagers sued Exxon Mobile in a US district court for human rights violations. :)

  2. This is not as simple as it sounds Tikno. Take for instance the people who elected the lady and also the lady herself. This would suppose that within the Muslim community, there are people who would prefer to follow the land of the law, which is secular and NOT sharia. What should a secular government do? Abandon these people? If a portion of the local population want to follow the sharia law, let them do so as long as it is not in conflict with the law of the land. Would the people who object to the lady being the head accept stoning and cutting off of hands for petty crimes, which is what Sharia would have them do? Some local Mullahs financed by fanatical Wahabi elements are spreading this kind of middle age reversion in all Muslim societies in the world including in India where such problems keep cropping up. Which should the Indonesian government accept? A modern state where a Woman can become the President or one where women will be put behind a veil and kept subservient to the males?

  3. @ Cheerful Monk,
    Talking about cares to the civil rights, I think every person would care about civil rights. Perhaps the difference is about its way and dosage. Norms, customs, beliefs, and educational level in the society itself also influencing its way and dosage.

    Stoning because of raping a woman or cutting off hands because of stealing the rights of others, is also a form of concern on the other person's civil rights. It's just that we can not accept their ways and dosage. For me that way has going too far and also over dosage.

    @ Rummuser,
    Sometimes not every decision always perfect to please all parties. There are consequences that must be accepted.

    Are you thinking of Aceh province should be divided again? One for the followers of Sharia and one for moderate? This is not as simple as it sounds.

    By the way, former Indonesian president, Megawati Sukarnoputri, is a woman.

  4. Why do you assume it's only America that worries about human rights? It's a big concern for reformists in Indonesia too:

    If the Islamists advocating Sharia law for all of Indonesia were ever to succeed, how would that affect you? Would alcohol be prohibited?

  5. This is a complicated matter. It has never been easy to solve out problems like this. I always adhere to democracy as the main guidance including the choice of laws the people want. But it seems it will be so unfair to the minority. It happens everywhere around the globe whether in Aceh, in France, etc. But I think perhaps democracy is also about to accept the resolution favoured by most people even though we don't like it and no matter how 'silly' it is...

  6. Hi Tikno,

    Very interesting analysis.
    Actually Muslim in Indonesia, especially in Java, are mostly moderates, compared to those in other countries.

    Unfortunately the majority Muslims are more silent that the very few fanatics who are very vocal.

    Re: Syariah law in Aceh, the central government has allowed its adoption in Aceh years before the peace with GAM.

    I am not sure whether or not the GAM leaders who live in Sweden also want adopt said law.
    But I have read that some of their officials do not agree with the brutal punishment like Stoning etc.

  7. The UK is also trying to figure out how to accommodate the people who want sharia without allowing the cruel practices. There is a big argument there over three schools where girls must wear the burka.

  8. As usual your post deals with an extremely interesting and extremely complicated matter. A superb entry which doubtlessly will again provoke a lot of reactions. Well, mine included.

    Well we can take a wide variety of perspectives. Looking from my little Western ivory tower I would say:

    Peace in Aceh was a blessing. Even if it was at the cost of a far reaching autonomy. But it is questionable whether it can be called a free choice. That peace has been negotiated at tables where no grass roots had seats. Topdogs from government, insurgents and outsiders were doing the job. And the result reflected the impact of the Tsunami which called for a coordinated effort by locals and central Government at very the moment war fatigue had been growing on both sides.

    Now the negotiated autonomy turns out to be at the cost of minorities ( and even a majority: women)though. Which should have been prevented by central government.

    It is peculiar that within a secular state, which subscribes to modernity, one of it's provinces is steering towards a theocracy. A kind of little Saudi Arabia is, I think, not a choice by an obvious majority in Aceh either. It is more likely the way a dominant local elite wants it, using a lot of provincial 'nationalism' ( c.q. seperatism) to fuel a pious culture.

    Particular sentences in your article are challenging also.

    I for one doubt whether the Hongkong - People's Republic of China (Hongkong changing it's dominion status outside China to become part of China) is comparable to the Aceh - RI case (Aceh loosening it's ties to Jakarta by becoming autonomous). But maybe they are two quite different examples of "Eastern wisdom".

    And I don't think it is fair to say those living in Aceh who don't endorse the Shari-ah by-laws have only to leave the area to be free.It is not that easy for common people to emigrate. That is kind of a theoretical existential choice for most people only. Especially for women is is almost impossible to flee their fate. They are living now in a society in which they are - in spite of pious pledges of the opposite- factually are second rate citizens.

    Thanks for the link. My husband and I have been talking about full-face veils. We agree with the fellow who says so much of communication is nonverbal, especially facial expressions. So women who completely cover their faces are bound to be treated differently. It's a fascinating problem.

  10. @ Cheerful Monk,
    I'm not assume it's only America. Actually I use America as a model for my puzzle. Why? Because America seem to consider themselves as the world's policeman by carrying the principle of human rights, although not yet recognized officially as the world's policeman. Some people say America are arrogant. I don't know whether it is true or not. As for the world's policeman, maybe Rummuser, Colson, CONSVLTVS, Yari NK, and H. Nizam have another perspective that maybe interesting to solve my puzzle above.

    As for the story on the link you have provided, I think it's just a dramatization sentences from the parties who do not agree with the president's decision to appoint new police's chief because the president proposed only a single candidate to the Parliament for approval.

    As for your question: "If the Islamists advocating Sharia law for all of Indonesia were ever to succeed, how would that affect you? Would alcohol be prohibited?"
    If it happened, certainly alcohol will be banned and I can not deal with alcohol, maybe deal with Coca-Cola, LOL. But, they have to deal with majority moderate and change the state constitution. This is like a mission impossible!
    It sounds like your own assumption. ;)

    By the way, Andrew J Bacevich has written an interesting article titled "US on an Afghan road to nowhere"

  11. @ Yari NK,
    Your last sentence is also challenging!
    How do you think to the question by Cheerful Monk above?

    @ H. Nizam,
    I guess GAM leaders who live in Sweden are more enjoy to stay there than to live in Aceh. ;)
    As a legal practitioner in Indonesia, I want to ask you whether non-Muslim who live in Aceh really have the option to live under national law. Is that true that Sharia law only applicable to Muslim in Aceh?

  12. @ CONSVLTVS,
    Accommodate Sharia without allowing the cruel practices? It sounds possible in UK but hard in Aceh or even in Saudi Arabia.
    Personally I do not feel bothered by women who wore full-face veils. It's just that I feel like seeing a stranger unknown. Furthermore I find difficult to guess whether she has gives the love signal to me or not, ha... ha...

    The good news as I know, Sharia law in Aceh is only applicable to Muslims who committed the crime in Aceh. It means not affected to non-Muslim or Muslim outside Aceh, but I doubt in daily practice.

  13. @ Colson,
    Indeed it is not a free choice. On one side the Indonesian government persisted to defend its territory with the principle of the unitary state. While GAM wants Aceh's independence.

    Thankfully Tsunami disaster has made the both sides fell silent. It's as if the hand of God helped to create the perfect ceasefire automatically and disenchant the both sides that Aceh's civilians are no longer able to. A unique process and also interesting, right?

    As you have said this case was peculiar, I likewise. Similar like Vatican within Italy - feels like a state within a state.

    As for your comparison between the China - Hong Kong and Indonesia - Aceh. As I know Hong Kong became part of China because of the past agreements between China - UK. At first the people of Hong Kong are also reluctant to follow the governance system in China. That is also done by elites in the past, but brought consequences for the present generation that does not sit at the negotiating table. ;)

  14. Tikno, I don't mind the full-face veil if that's what the woman wants to wear. I do worry about security in airports and so on (who knows what's underneath?). About love signals, well, my wife would not want me to get any love signals from other women!

  15. tikno,
    I think the American government is incredibly arrogant preaching human rights to other countries. We'd be better off setting a better example.

    However my guess is ours will soon be replaced by Chinese arrogance. My guess is that won't be any better. :)

  16. Hi Tikno - apparently no one interested to solve your complicated puzzle. Extremely complicated as said by Colson - your reader.

    btw... what was in your mind when writing the puzzle above.

    I agree that the veil should be opened for security reasons such as immigration check at airports, seaports, and so on to match the identity. It should be understood as something that it should be.

    About love signals, I can translate it that your wife really love you.
    Hmm... you're a lucky man! ;)

    @Cheerful Monk,
    Possibly... meanwhile let the time to prove it.
    btw, Suwingli have said that no one interested to my puzzle above. ;)

    Please guess!
    I think it's better to let it be answered by readers of this post. :)

  18. After thinking it over the formal answer to your puzzle in my mind should be: never coerce an ideology or religion on people by using violence.

    However it's different if part of the population undertake an armed insurgency. If genuine efforts to solve the problem by negotiations are not successful, that ultimately may justify a military response. Which would not necessarily mean violation of human rights - the military should abide by the Geneva conventions and legal rules of engagement.

    However the common way should be that Police should maintain law and order. As applying a deviant judicial system ( Shariah) was/is breaking the law and having democratically established laws in Indonesia, the Judiciary (Police+ AGO+Courts) should act against those individuals who break it.

  19. Tikno,
    Here's a link to another article about Afghanistan:

  20. @ Colson,
    Firstly, your comments is same as complex as this post and also add the complexity into this post. :)

    I catch your mind. I can feel you're indirectly want to say yes to my puzzle, namely continue to eradicate their right. No?

    @ Cheerful Monk,
    Destroy and hopeful at almost the same time.

    Jean (Cheerful Monk), I was tired when thinking about the war - killing only because of revenge, ideology, principle, interests. Actually the intention of this post is to complicates people mind if still thinking about war of ideology - so... I'm confront it with human rights. I'm sorry to use Aceh and America as my model. As I have said before that the most dangerous war is religious war. Look at the case of Palestine and Israel. I heard it has continued since the time of the prophet until now.

    I'm glad to hear Colson said this is extremely complicated matter. With the hope people have the very complicated thinking in their mind if want to start the war.

    What the world I'm dreaming of is...... please support my open letter at:

  21. tikno,
    I agree that religion can make some people fanatical, but so did National Socialism and the point that some people called those movements secular religions.

    Would you call World War II a religious war? I would call it an ideological one. After World War I most Americans were isolationists and most of the British were desperate to stay out of another war. Unfortunately Hitler had other ideas.

    I wish you all the luck in the world, but I'm afraid thousands of years of history are not very encouraging.

  22. LOL. Tikno, it seems that each of us left a comment it did not solve the problem provided in your post. we only brought more complication to the puzzle posed by you instead. But it is all right. I understand that this is not a mathematical problem that can be solved out by particular formulae, obviously there is no exact solution to this problem. We have been living on such differences for millennia and it seems that it will remain so. But that is human nature: living and surviving on differences. What matters to us is how to get rid of violence and threats without condemning our differences. Let's celebrate the true various colours of humanity! :)

  23. Hi Tikno,

    Indonesia is a unitary state whereby every parts of the country is governed by national laws under the jurisdiction of national law enforcement agencies.
    Thus, unlike federal types of countries whereby each states are free to make their own laws and maintain their own law enforcement agencies.

    The adoption of Syariah law in Aceh is an extra-ordinary exception to our legal system.

    In general, actually the Syariah law is only for Muslim, but Aceh is adopting a system like ln Saudi Arabia whereby all its citizens should obey the said law.

  24. Cheerful Monk,
    "Would you call World War II a religious war?"
    No, I would call it the stupid war which in the end just destroying human civilization and spreading fear.

    At the end... the history has recorded Hitler as a war criminal.

    @ Yari NK,
    I am sure in their heart each reader already has the answer to my puzzle. I guess some of them want to say "yes" and other want to say "no". It mean the answer already in their heart.

    But okay, let the puzzle become a mystery for musings.

    @ H. Nizam,
    You are right this is an extra-ordinary exception to our legal system.
    It's miraculous!

  25. Hi Tikno,
    I am back on your blog to see if you have any update.

  26. Its a great post.i will definitely share it with my friends.

    home jobs

  27. Hi Santi,
    Are you a student of Andalas University in Padang, West Sumatera?
    It would be interesting to see your comments from academic perspective.

  28. Hi Tiko! I followed you over here from "Lori's Laws Blog. I truly wish I had an answer for you, but unfortunately I am not very smart when it comes to "deep" intellectual conversations. I gather that there is a rift in your country about the Islamic law about women? Since I am not well-verse in that matter, I will just say I feel privileged to live in a country that doesn't go to that extreme about such matters. Although we have our problems too. I'm glad religion isn't one of them. Of course if things keep going the way they are, who knows. Our biggest thing right now is the fact that prayer is not being allowed in school, which to me is quite a bit of the reason for all of the crime and shootings going on in our schools, and the Ten Commandments being taken out of the governmental buildings. To me, this country was founded on Christian principles and the Christian principles should stay a part of every decision made in this country. You notice I did say "a part". In other words it should have some influence over decisions being made. (I said "some"). LOL!

    I will say that my prayers are with your country that God's will be done.

    God Bless,

  29. PJ,

    That is the choice of your country that strictly follow the principle of separation between state and religious matter. Seemingly religious was considered as individual affairs, so do not get a place in public spaces.

    I think we need to achieve a proportional balance (think proportionally) between religion and state. Both of them are needed at least from the perspective of my personal value - not mixed but combined for the best outcome.

  30. Anonymous13 July, 2011

    Well there are a lot of Islamic countries, but rare of them are following the Islamic Rules,, they have but not all of them,, i would say that, in Middle east, some of the Countries are really following Islamic religion,, and Islamic law,, but not in other Muslim Countries.. the example of Indonesia is fine,, but if we see there, you would see many of the Muslim women in skirts,, and a lot more... Quran learning

  31. You can find all about law in Quran.


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